Edition #9: Urine for a treat

This weekly dose of weird includes Urine Therapy, Affirmations, Ketamine, Empaths and Himalayan Salt Lamps

Welcome to your weekly dose of weird, where I share new age trends and dig up gems from the counter culture. You can sign up for the newsletter or find previous editions here.

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Urine therapy

If you’re pissed off at the lack of solutions for the corona virus, urine for a treat. Urine therapy (or “urotherapy”), is the use of urine for medicinal purposes. This includes drinking one’s own urine (“urophagia“).

From Youtuber Sky Life

Turns out people have been drinking their own urine for a while – ancient Egyptians, Jews, Greeks and Indians have been documented to use urine. But urine therapy really started in 1944 when British naturopath John W. Armstrong published The Water of Life: A treatise on urine therapy, which became a founding document of the field.

These days, urine therapy has made a comeback in alternative health circles. Proponents claim that urine therapy is a cure-all for countless maladies, including cancer, autoimmune disease and even skin issues. To be fair, urine does contain urea, which is commonly found in skin care products.

There’s specific examples like Troy Casey, who claims he’s been drinking his own urine for 15 years, and also does urine enemas. There’s also Brother Sage, who suggests that the faint of heart (who don’t want to consume urine) can soak their feet in the good yellow stuff instead.

Despite this trend, there’s been no scientific proof that urine therapy works. Consuming urine can actually be quite harmful, such that even the Army Survival Manual advises against drinking urine in survival scenarios – it can accelerate dehydration.

Affirmations

Years ago, I found the book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It during an extended life-funk.
The short book proposed an exercise saying “I love myself” as a mantra in the mirror. Kamal Ravikant, the book’s author, claimed that affirmations work even if you don’t believe in them. I took his word for it and it worked…which is a story for another time.

Yet, I didn’t think there wouldn’t be much science behind affirmations. I assumed wrong. There’s a surprising amount of studies in the category of self-affirmation theory.

Affirmations have been shown to improve task performance and increase the happiness of the terminally ill.

Most surprising of all, affirmation work not by “manifesting” magic, but work by broadening a person’s sense of self (2015 study).

In this way, affirmations help people get a a wider perspective so that any one threat is less likely to dominate a person’s feelings of self-worth.

Related pro tip: a 2014 study suggested that using your own name (“Oz is a beautiful butterfly”) is more effective than the first-person (“I am a beautiful butterfly”). This is because talking to ourselves in the third-person enhances “self-distancing,” which ties into that bit about expanding one’s sense of self.

Does Ketamine Kill Depression?

Known as an anesthetic and party drug (“Special K”), ketamine is now surging in popularity as a treatment for depression. Some have reported an instant improvement to their depression, including this long-winded but fascinating story of someone who shed 30 years of depression after a few visits to ketamine clinic. 

These clinics have been popping up to offer ketamine infusion therapy, which involves an IV drip of ketamine directly into patients’ veins. Check out this video of someone going through a live IV drip.

One study found that 1 in 3 patients experience side effects from ketamine, including hallucinations, vivid dreams, out-of-body experiences and urinary dysfunction.

In March 2019, the FDA approved the use of esketamine – a close chemical cousin of ketamine – to treat patients who haven’t responded to regular antidepressants. Now ketamine joins the family of formerly maligned drugs like MDMA, magic mushrooms and LSD that have found promising uses for those suffering from depression.

Empaths

If you’re highly sensitive, overly giving and tend to take on others’ emotional burden, you might have the traits of an empath. To be honest, I never took the idea of an empath seriously, treating it the same as someone who’d claim they’re a psychic or mind reader. As always, there’s more that meets the eye.

In 1908 two psychologists from Cornell and the University of Cambridge coined the term “empathy,” which has German (“Einfühlung”) and Greek (“em pathos”) roots that literally means “in feeling.” Nowadays, empathy is in vogue. It makes its way into Ted talks, company values and design portfolios.

The idea of an “empath” was first widely used in TV and science fiction, meaning someone who has “supernatural ability to feel, and sometimes manipulate, other people’s emotions” (Dictionary.com). Fun fact: There’s a Marvel character named Empath who appeared in edition 64 of the New Mutants Marvel comics (1984).

Up until recently, the scientific evidence for empaths has been triangulated by research on mirror neurons and emotional contagion.

New research makes the idea of empaths feel more real – literally. Some 1-2% of the general population have what is called mirror-touch synesthesia. For these individuals, just observing someone else’s physical sensations – including pain – makes them feel it too.

This episode of Invisibilia (one of my favorite podcasts) dives into the world of Amanda, someone who experiences extreme mirror touch. She is so overwhelmed by what other people feel, there’s no dining room in her home. She can’t eat around her own family members.

“It feels like they’re shoving food in my mouth. And I’m trying to eat, and they’re shoving their forks in my mouth. And it’s like this thing piled on top of itself, and it’s terrible.”

It’s debilitating because Amanda feels like it’s so easy to be consumed by someone else’s experiences, rather than being able to focus on her own.

If she’s not an empath, I don’t know who is.

Himalayan Salt Lamps

I like the warm, pink glow of Himalayan salt lamps and have been thinking of getting one myself. The popularity of these salt lamps comes from purported health benefits like air purification, sleep improvement and mood elevation.

Turns out, there’s no scientific evidence that Himalayan salt lamps have health benefits.

Based on the trusty WebMD:

“So far no one has proved that Himalayan salt lamps release negative ions, let alone enough to have any impact on health.”

  • Though a small amount of pollutants in the air might stick to salt rock, these rocks don’t have anywhere near the filtering ability of, say, charcoal, a common component of air filters.
  • In small studies on mice, contact with a salt lamp had antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. That doesn’t mean the lamps would have the same effect on humans.

Yet, they’re are so popular now that there’s (of course) fake salt lamps for sale. Check out this guide on how to spot – and avoid – buying a fake (hint: they’re probably not on sale for $20).

Sorry if any of these revelations made ya feel salty, I was just trying to keep things light.

Oz Chen

Oz Chen

Oz is the host of Hippiecritical, a blog and podcast exploring new age trends with both skepticism and an open heart. He's a designer + writer by day, hippie whisperer by night.

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